El Sendero del Jaguar pt.1

What a crazy life. How did I even get here? I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately. A question I stopped asking myself a while back. I tend to be more preoccupied with where I’m going next, although I am working on being more in the present.

After a month of learning new skills and exploring a bit of Oaxaca, I was kind of feeling like it might be time to move on. That’s when I got the email from a Couchsurfing filmmaker friend in San Cristobal de las Casas. She was about to begin a journey with a group of Mayan elders through the rainforest of Chiapas. They would be following El Sendero del Jaguar (the path of the jaguar), visiting a series of sacred sites to perform ceremonies. She would be documenting the entire thing, and asked if I could volunteer my help. Well, I was almost out of money, and had just accepted an English teaching job, but it seemed like the kind of opportunity I couldn’t pass up. After all, I began this journey with the goal of experiencing different cultures. With less than a week’s preparation I decided to join the Sendero del Jaguar, and packed my bags for Chiapas.

I really didn’t know what I was in for, and no one seemed able to give me an explanation. That is kind of how the entire journey went, to be honest. It was held entirely in Spanish, and, well, my Spanish skills are not so great. There were some people who spoke English, so when I really needed a translation I was usually able to get at least some information. It was a challenge, however, because the journey was largely a spiritual one, in which people were often distant and introspective.

The basis of the journey was the idea that on December 21, 2012 (you may have heard about this date before) the earth will be finishing a 26,000-year cycle. At this point a change will begin to occur, in which the old way of living (you know, where people torture and oppress each other and destroy the earth) will be replaced with a more harmonious way of living. This change will require the purging of old institutions, which will be painful and difficult for those who are not prepared. And so, these ceremonies were meant to cleanse people of their old karma and prepare them for this change- a sort of ascension to a higher level of consciousness. Or at least, this is the best explanation I can come up with. Let’s just say, a LOT of incense was burned.

You’re probably wondering, who does a journey like this? I wondered this a lot too. Some people clearly had indigenous roots, and so had been raised with these ideas and customs. But to be honest, the cross-section of people could have been picked from any office. Thus, as would be expected if you took a cross-section of people from your office and sent them through the jungle for 3 weeks, the trip was complete with drama, hook-ups, and near fights. I only mention this in case you might be thinking that a spiritual journey would be different from any other kind of journey (or that “spiritual seekers” would be different from any other random people). We were never lacking in entertainment. Could this be a future reality-tv show?

So now I’m back to civilization, and will be going through 4 hours of video to put together a few videos that will portray some of the really beautiful and interesting experiences and places of El Sendero del Jaguar. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these few photos. There will be many more of those coming soon as well.

I’m glad to report that besides learning a lot about Mayan culture and spirituality, and getting some awesome video, my Spanish has improved a lot. I’m not any more clear about what I’m doing with my life, but at least I can say I’m really living it!

 

More photos at https://flic.kr/s/aHsjyMgeF5